Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An interesting human interest story

Independence Day Special: Real Heroes

My Papa strongest

He wages a resolute war on religious fanatics to defend an act of humanity
RAMU SURAVAJJULA | Issue Dated: August 21, 2011, New Delhi
R. Papalal, Hyderabad
On August 25, 2007, a bomb planted by terrorists at the crowded Gokul Chat Bhandar, Hyderabad, snuffed out many lives. The incident changed painter R. Papalal’s life forever in ways he could never have imagined.

He was painting portraits of deities in the nearby Narsing Mandir when the bomb went off. Papalal rushed to the spot and saw a grievously injured four-year-old Muslim girl wailing inconsolably, crying for her ammi and abba. Neither the child nor he knew at that point that her parents (later identified as Basha and Fatima Begam) had lost their lives. On the spur of the moment, Papalal decided to take the girl into his family’s fold.

Trouble erupted when his humanitarian gesture came to light a year later, when a television channel aired a report about Papalal and the girl on the first anniversary of the twin blasts. Bigots from both communities have been hounding him ever since. Papalal, now 35, has reason to be distraught but he has stood his ground in the hope that he will eventually be able to formally adopt the girl.

“This girl is our Lakshmi. She has brought us good luck. We won’t part with her come what may,” says Papalal, who lives in his two-room ancestral house in Chudi Bazar of the old city of Hyderabad. 

While he and his wife Jayasree have been all but ostracized by the Yadavas, the locality’s dominant community, some Muslim leaders have demanded that he hand the girl over to Darus-salam.

Papalal’s own extended family is unable to digest the fact that a member of their 'suryavamshi' clan is bringing up a Muslim girl. His relatives have constantly harassed him and Jayasree in connivance with local religious zealots.
When Papalal rushed the girl to a nearby hospital that fateful day, an instant human bond developed between the two. The police could not trace the girl’s parents. “She clasped my hand when she realised that the police were trying to shift her to an orphanage. So I brought her to my place with the consent of the police,” Papalal recalls.

The couple, married for five years but childless until then, named her Anjali. Life began to look up for Papalal and Jayasree. They were blessed with a baby girl soon after Anjali’s arrival. They aptly christened her Ekta. Professionally, too, the painter hit a purple patch. “Everyone advised us to get rid of the Muslim girl. They said she was a bad omen. But since her arrival our life has changed for the better,” says Jayasree.

But then, all of a sudden, “the happy family” attracted the wrath of both communities. “Once the story was telecast, all hell broke loose. The locals started heckling us. They prevented us from celebrating Holi and other Hindu festivals. They even pelted stones at my house,” Papalal recalls.

Failing to intimidate Papalal, the Yadavas allegedly hatched a conspiracy with the help his own brother. “The Shahinayathgunj Police registered a case under Section 354 (outrage of modesty) and 324 (voluntarily causing harm by weapons) and sent me to jail based on a false complaint made by my brother's wife,” alleges Papalal.

When Papalal was in jail, his brother allegedly manhandled Anjali. “It was nightmarish. But we thought God was testing us,” says the devout Jayasree. 

A test it has been. A Hyderabad politician called up Papalal and threatened him. A Muslim religious leader from New Delhi summoned Papalal during a visit to Hyderabad and ordered him “to either hand over the girl to a madrasa or embrace Islam”. Says Papalal: “I told him I need some time to think about it and left hurriedly. He also asked me to refrain from apply bindi on the girl’s forehead.”

As buying peace was of utmost importance, Papalal gave in to the “no bindi” diktat. He also changed the girl’s name to Sania Fatima. 

A section of the Hindu community, on its part, picked on the hapless girl, and hurled abuses at her. Papalal filed cases at the Shainayatganj police station when Sania was targeted in September 2008 and March and August 2009.

Pushed to a corner, Papalal met the then chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), Justice Subhashan Reddy. “He provided us security. A local sub-inspector was assigned to visit us regularly. The locals then began to spread rumours that my wife had illicit relations with the police officer,” says Papalal. 

Meanwhile, an advocates’ committee appointed by the SHRC observed that the couple should formally adopt the girl or surrender her to the Women and Child Welfare Department. However, the Hyderabad district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has allowed the family to keep Sania for three months.

In response to an adoption petition, the CWC said that officials would visit Papalal's home regularly to check how she was being treated, after which a final decision would be taken.

Initially Papalal's advocate, Mohd Raheemuddin, was also under “pressure” from some Muslims who advised him against taking up cudgels on Papalal's behalf. “The religious leaders reacted without understanding the ground realities. When I explained to them that the girl is in safe hands, they began to see reason. Hindu leaders, too, aren’t raising objections anymore,” says the advocate.

Raheemuddin argues that the SHRC can't take a call in the case. “The state government has to take a decision. I believe that the CWC will allow the couple to adopt the girl,” he observes.

Meanwhile, Papalal’s battle to uphold humanity and the idea of India continues.   


Unknown said...

Great man, Papalal!

కిరణ్ కుమార్ కే said...

I wish I personally visit this family and thank him for this great god's work.

Anonymous said...

Nice story Mr Ramu.Please Keep on posting such human interest stories atleast in your blog, particularly when main stream media is busy in searching mud in gold caves!

- Yadhardavadi

కమనీయం said...

Papalal and his wife though ordinary persons deserve praise.They are really great.Thanks for this human story.

కమనీయం said...

thanks for this intensely human story.Papalal and his wife deserve all praise.

satishveera said...

చాలా చక్కని రిపోర్టు. ఇంత మంచి స్టోరీ ఏదైనా పత్రికలో వచ్చుంటే ఇంకా బాగుండేది. కులాలూ, మతాల మధ్య చిచ్చు పెట్టి, పబ్బం గడుపుకొనే పత్రికలకి, పెట్టుబడులకు పుట్టిన విషపుత్రికలకి ఇంత మంచి రిపోర్టులు ఎందుకు కనబడతాయి?

Vinay Datta said...

Very Heartening.


Vinay Datta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pravi said...

రామూ గారూ,
మీ బ్లాగు చాలా కాలంగా చూస్తున్నాను. మీ రాంబాణం కూడా చదువుతుంటాను. ఇంత ప్రతిభ ఉండి, మీరు ఎందుకు regular media లో చేయడం లేదు? ఈనాడు, The Hindu లో చెసిన మీరు, ఇప్పుడు కేవలం professor గా పనిచేయడం వల్ల విద్యార్థులకి benefit కావచ్చు గానీ, మీ వంటి ప్రతిభావంతులైన జర్నలిస్టు ఏదైనా పత్రికలో చేస్తే బాగుంటుంది. పాపాలాల్ రిపోర్టు ఈ బ్లాగులోనే కాకుండా, ఏదైనా పత్రికలో కూడా వచ్చుంటే, దాని impact ఇంకా బాగుండేది.

Ramu S said...

Pravi garu,
This story was published in a magazine, The Sunday Indian. I don't have much space in regular media.
@Siva prasad garu
I am planning a story on the issues raised by you sir. Please wait.

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